Panelists at the recent Boys & Girls Clubs of America's Great Think: Workforce Readiness event in Washington, D.C., argued that society sends a message to young people that careers require a four-year degree, according to www.constructiondive.com.
They said this view is doing a disservice to the construction and manufacturing industries and young people in the U.S.
BGCA Board Chair David Seaton, chairman and CEO of Fluor Corp., said employers need to reach out to young people early to "change the perception that a college pathway is the only route to success."
Carolyn Lee, executive director of the Manufacturing Institute, emphasized the importance of businesses partnering with schools to offer exposure to career opportunities that don't require a degree: "Kids can't be what they can't see."
The panelists said employers also should encourage parents, educators and guidance counselors to assign the same value to career and technical vocations as they do to the college path.
Michael Bellaman, president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors, said once young people experience working in industries such as construction, they easily can see the opportunities available. He says the industry's "earn while you learn" framework is a key factor to promote.
Bellaman said many construction professionals can point to success stories of individuals who did not go to college and found success and entrepreneurial opportunities in the industry, and employers are willing to help young people reach this success.
Lee said it is important to show young people how they can continue to learn and grow in the industry.
"They want to solve challenges and do something that is bigger than themselves," she said.